For many riders, a power meter is high on the shopping list when upgrading a bike or venturing into the world of structured training.
The number of options for power measurement has increased significantly over the last few years. There are more power meters than ever at a range of prices, with the option to measure your power from the chainset spider, crank arm or through the pedals.
While early pedal-based power meters were, in some cases, heavy, bulky and awkward to set up and calibrate, the latest pedal power meters look pretty much like normal pedals and don’t weigh a lot more. Most include rechargeable internal batteries, so they’re easy to keep charged up.
Power meter pedals are also favoured by many riders thanks to the ease with which they can be swapped between bikes, and due to the fact that they stand independent of other components.
With the launch of the Wahoo POWRLINK ZERO pedals, you can now buy a Speedplay-compatible power meter, meaning that all the major pedal and cleat systems are covered.
Here are five reasons to choose a pedal power meter.
1) They’re easy to swap between bikes
First up, a pedal power meter is easy to swap between bikes.
Knowing how to remove and install pedals is a simple job for most cyclists, and that’s often all the expertise you need to switch your power meter to a new bike.
Newer pedal power meters often don’t need to be tightened to a specific torque value, which was a drawback of some earlier models, so you don’t need anything but a pedal spanner or an Allen key.
As a result, if you’ve got multiple bikes, it’s easy to measure your power on whichever one you’re riding. You can also easily remove your pedals if you’re flying with your bike, or take your power meter with you if you’re renting a bike on a cycling holiday or training camp.
In contrast, moving even the simplest crank-based power meter between bikes means partially dismantling your chainset by removing a crank arm.
Moving a dual-sided meter, meanwhile, will mean tampering with your bottom bracket. That may need specialist tools because bottom bracket standards are decidedly non-standard, and you may find your power meter doesn’t fit in a different bike.
2) You can use your preferred pedal system
It wasn’t long ago that riders wanting a pedal-based power meter had very limited choice when it came to cleat compatibility.
That’s changed and there are now power meter options that offer compatibility with all the major pedal systems, so you can stick to your preferred interface.
That includes Speedplay users, who now have a pedal power meter option with the launch of the Wahoo POWRLINK ZERO.
As a result, Speedplay riders can continue to benefit from the pedal system’s adjustability, low stack height and double-sided engagement, while measuring power to an accuracy of within one per cent.
3) You’re not tied to a particular BCD
Many dual-sided crank arm power meters will come with a chainring spider as part of the power meter. That means you’re wedded to the bolt circle diameter (BCD) and arm spacing of the spider.
It used to be, for example, that Shimano had different BCDs for standard and compact chainsets. There’s a lot more interchangeability within a given brand with modern chainrings, but you may still find that you’re limited in the chainrings you can fit to a spider.
That’s particularly true if you want to fit super-compact chainrings for gravel riding, which often have a smaller BCD than chainrings found on road groupsets. Swapping to a single chainring on a 1x setup may also be impossible.
None of that’s a problem if your power meter is in your pedals; you can ride any bike you want, anywhere you want, with any groupset and chainring configuration.
4) You can change your crank length
The same considerations apply to crank length.
With a crank or chainset power meter, you’re stuck with a fixed crank length. You may never want to change crank length – riders normally stick to the crank length their bike size came with – but if you do want to switch for bike fit or performance reasons, that might mean needing a new power meter.
Some riders can benefit from a change of crank length. Bradley Wiggins swapped from 177.5mm cranks down to 170mm when he set the British hour record in 2015, which enabled him to improve his aero position.
Amateur triathletes and time trialists will often ride shorter cranks so that they can up their cadence and, like Wiggins, get more aero. For riders with less lofty ambitions, a change in crank length is something a bike fitter might recommend to improve efficiency or on-bike comfort.
If you’ve got a chainset power meter, you’re out of luck if you want to try a different crank length. But a set of power meter pedals? No problem.
5) You can choose from single-sided and dual-sided options
For most pedal power meters, both single-sided and dual-sided systems will be sold. That gives you the option of a more affordable (single-sided) or more accurate (dual-sided) power meter, depending on your budget and aspirations.
Single-sided power meters measure the force applied using strain gauges in one pedal, with a regular, non-power pedal on the other side. The power meter will then double the rider’s output to give you an estimate of total power.
That will be enough for some riders, and a single-sided pedal system will offer a less expensive entry into power measurement, but a double-sided meter ups the ante again.
You may pay more, but you’ll get a more accurate figure that independently measures power from both the left and right pedals, which in turn will show your left:right balance.
As a result, you can identify any asymmetries in your power output and work to address them. You’ll also get a true power output figure, rather than an estimate, and a range of other analytics for your pedalling dynamics.